First Sarat Chandra wrote a novel called Devdas.
Then PC Barua thought Dude that is SO my life but before I proceed to piss away my life on the grog, I will make Devdas the Movie. And KL Saigal said Dude I am so pissing away my life on the drink too and I will be Devdas. And they were like dudes this film should be totally realistic and all, we are young and awesome! And oh the lassitude, the languid poses, the sadness, it was a sight to behold! And everyone was weeping wildly in the aisles and the streets and boys sang Balam ayo baso mere man mein to local Paros and the grog was flowing freely and then they married the girl their parents chose and it was all glorious.
Then Bimal Roy thought hey I lensed for Barua and I am SO making another Devdas. And Paro was lush and Chandramukhi was lush and Devdas was a lush and Chunni was a lush but no one was like actually pissing away their life on the drink and it was all very sad and beautiful. And everyone was weeping wildly in the aisles and young men sang Mitwa Lagi Re to local Paros and the grog was flowing till real life interfered and it was all glorious.
Then they thought hey Amitabh can be Devdas and he drank a lot and spoke to mirrors and there was a massive fight scene and Paro (Hema Malini) mooned around like a vacant faced cow and Chandramukhi (Rekha) was a tantric goddess who cast an instant spell on Devdas and he got all amnesiac and utterly devoted to Chandramukhi’s sexual pleasuring. Oh that NEVER GOT MADE, PRAISE THE LORD! Though Sorceress Chandramukhi = Glorious!
Then Sanjay Leela Bhansali thought Dude I am SO making a Rajasthan-Punjab production of this. And everything was shiny and bright and dazzling and under this mountain of glitter Devdas was like I will cry beautifully and totally piss away my life on the grog and die because all this bling is giving me a headache. And Paro was like Dude good for you because I am totes getting tired of holding this lamp and Chandramukhi was must smile smile smile and prove my smile is more dazzling than all this SLB bling. And everyone was weeping in the aisles and streets and even the firangs said Pink is the new black! Retinal Assault is the new black! Bollywood is the new black!. And they all wept at Cannes and young men took to youtube to weep and it was all super shiny fucking glorious.
Then Anurag Kashyap thought Dude Bollywood is so last year and I am the king of indies and I should be SO famous. So hey I will borrow from Sarat Da and make it all contemporary because I am way too sexy and cool for my own good. And this is how Dev D went.
Dev is a Punjabi lad and Paro is his closest friend and you don’t want to know these dull children because all that happens is Dev is a brat who smokes and calls Daddy by his first name and gets sent to London to study. And Paro is a mini My Name is Lady Vengeance.
Then Dev (Abhay Deol) and Paro (Mahie Gill) are all grown up and having phone sex and Paro is taking pics of her tits and Dev is that’s it I am totally returning home to fuck you and by the by also attend my brother’s wedding. So that fuck is then totally not happening. Instead there are lots of almost fucks. Including with a Rasika who is totally making the moves on Dev and having almost fucks in a chicken shed. By now Paro is like I MUST FUCK and get myself a room but the guy with the room Sunil is all stroppy because he too wants to fuck Paro and have first dibs. The Big Punjabi Wedding of Fucks and Almost Fucks so to say, oh yes I forgot the setting for all this is one of those Punjabi weddings of indescribable din which should be banned from film for the next century at least. Anyway Sunil the gossip is all like Paro is the super best fuck in the village and Dev hears this and breaks a bottle over his head. This is the Punjab, remember! Paro now plans a Sex in the Sugarcane Fields but that too is Almost Sex in the Sugarcane Fields because Dev is Super Sulky about Promiscuous Paro.
Slutty Rasika has a brother with two kids and he is totes besotted with Paro and wants to marry her. And Paro is thinking this almost fuckathon is driving me crazy and hand pumping her way to orgasmic rage. Meanwhile praise the lord Rasika and Dev have graduated to the fuck and Paro finds out. And Paro thinks enough of the hand pump and yeah Bhuvan I shall be your wife. And Dev is like yeah I am totally down with that because I am way too cool and rich for you and you are a slut. Then Dev hears that Paro may not be promiscuous and thinks uh huh that was a bit foolish so let me start drinking and pass out.
Just registering that the whole damn thing is punctuated by an irritating soundtrack that feels like being permanently stuck on an X factor audition stage because the bloody thing NEVER STOPS.
Fun with Prostitution
Meanwhile Leni (Kalki Koechlin) is a schoolgirl but she has been doing some dick sucking in her off hours that lands her in a MMS scandal. Yeah we get it, this is SO NOT the 1920s! But Director is also very keenly studying 50s melodramas and the world and its brother are BAD and WICKED and INSENSITIVE and Daddy shoots himself over khandan ki izzat and poor Leni runs away and is all alone in this cruel world and becomes a prostitute. Because that is the only fucking profession available. But hey great move on Leni’s part, the prostitution industry is full of absolutely lovely people. Leni’s pimp has a Golden Heart! Leni is a college going prostitute! Her pimp has arranged for her education! She has a nice pink boudoir! She is now called Chandramukhi but you can call her Chanda! Prostitution is a breeze! A world full of happy, shiny people doing lines of cocaine and cruising around in hot pink wheels! It’s all safe and beautiful and SO glorious!
And wow who would have thunk Karol Bagh folk are such fetishists – dear Lord, Fat Flashman would love this! - for here is Chanda dressing up as a sexy schoolgirl, Chanda is now a sexy nurse, Chanda is now wielding a whip! So much like a self consciously perverse Vogue photo shoot!
DAMN the soundtrack.
So Dev is now in Chanda’s boudoir because Chunni the pimp found him roaring drunk somewhere. Oh Chanda your boudoir is like an art exhibit. And you are SO literate; a languidly held book accessorises every cigarette.
Flashback. Post the Paro wedding, Dev leaves home and is cruising Delhi, doing drugs, drinking vodka, living in a seedy hotel. But like not even having almost fucks because the now unobtainable Paro is an anti-aphrodisiac. Before he gets into trouble, he is saved by Chunni the pimp, the first pimp with a heart of gold in the history of cinema. Chunni is slick and uber cool and is like you want to drink lets drink at the uber cool bars. And I would totally vote for Pardesi in the Dev D X Factor contest except that it goes on for as long as Dev’s drinking in the uber cool bar and more which is a VERY LONG TIME. So Dev is like fully coked and drunk and that is how Chunni gets him to the Chanda Boudoir. So that’s another night of non-fucking and Dev is crying out for Paro and Chanda is right now I can’t be fussed with anything because my hair is in a net and I can’t see through my makeup.
Dev gets up in the morning and decides its time to meet Paro. Dev’s way of meeting Paro is to hook up with...Rasika. In the meantime Dev is also totes spying on Paro who is playing happy families on her balcony. Consequently Dev is all tantrums and cruelty and Rasika is like Dude you are one sick puppy. So time for another Dev bender, post which he is back in Chanda Land but she is too busy having multilingual phone sex. Then Chanda is like Dude you are always here so do you want to fuck and he is like No Way. Plus all the pretty pills and liquids must make it difficult. So like Chanda is a little besotted because of the non-fuck. You want to keep a prostitute interested? Don’t Fuck. Works all the time.
Despondent Dev continues on downward spiral. And his Dad is ill but he doesn’t know. At some point he decides to be a phone pest and calls Paro in the night. But gets Bhuvan who is like wow good time to discuss the Dev-Rasika rishta because that will totally solve everything.
So Paro turns up at Dev’s place the next day and is all housewifely concern. Dev is thinking damn I let her get away without ever fucking her. But Dude you are still not screwing her because Paro is all I might wash your clothes but no way are you getting a piece of me. Plus Bhuvan seems to be doing a better job than the hand pump and Dev put together. Dev and Paro, never the twain shall be.
Coke n Vodka
Dev you notice is taking the drinking game rather literally. Every time I think of Paro is bound to result in a LOT of drinks. And lines of coke. Plus Chunni is proving the perfect drink buddy. And Chanda is always tucking him in for the night because she is all my little sparrow, I will adopt you and protect you.
Dev and Chanda are totally bonding. She is prone to wisdom of the You Are Just Not That Into Paro sort. Sure because the biatch totally wants Dev for herself! And of course she is SO brave, SO courageous! She knows pain! She faces the world with a laugh! She has no self pity! Oh Dev you must learn, observe and be a better man!
But Dev is thinking I need to obsess about Paro and abuse a few more substances.
The Dev thinks hey maybe I will go with the Chanda option. Chunni is like Dude this is not going anywhere because those Karol Bagh customers are just going to keep coming! They are good for business! You aren’t going to have first, middle or last dibs!
Oh did I mention DAMN the soundtrack! Also stop making Delhi films, there are already one too many!
Hit, Run, Find Love
Chanda's Karol Bagh sexy games are too much for Dev so time for another bender and killing a few people with his Dad bought BMW. Oy yes we get it this is emphatically NOT the 1920s, this is the NEW INDIA! Now time for Dev to find himself because THAT is what is important when you have mowed down a few folk. Dev cries at Dad’s funeral, Dev bonds with his sardar minder, Dev takes random road trip, Dev is sick, Dev is my existence is like a Dog and I wanna be reborn, Dev is all those people I killed remind me that I must remain ALIVE.
Then Dev is all lightning bolt of clarity and I totes love Chanda but she has left town. So off he goes to find her and does and hallelujah he never loved Paro and is now all soul matey with Chanda and it's all this is so OTP (One True Pairing). Did I mention the irritating soundtrack? At this point it is all like fucking light up the torch of your heart and its THE END.
And indeed the hearts of all hipsters were immediately set afire and they were crying in the aisles and streets and on their blogs with sheer relief that we too can make movies about sex and drugs and sluts and bad music and it was all glorious and The Twilight Players never stopped playing. And I am thinking, “Its OK my baby, forget it”.**
*Title from the Big Lebowski, Dev calls himself The Dude. **That is of course a line from the film.
Whether you love it or loathe it, Devdas is a singular novel. Which film version you like will depend on your sensibilities. Dev D unfortunately is like an adolescent film, it is stuffed to the gills with the cool and the hip (it does include a sweet nod to the past with a lawyer named Bimal Barua, posters of Shahrukh as Devdas) and marries it with the conventional sentimental tale of the redemption of a dissolute broken hearted chap by a sensitive hooker. So much so that the source novel seems audacious and subversive in having a protagonist who is not returned to life by the love of a good woman. The tacked on MMS and hit and run scandals add nothing; the latter in fact ensures that the difficult feat the novel achieves - of making Devdas a tragic hero - is entirely negated. Eventually for all its outer trappings the movie is as pedestrian and conventional as any other Hindi film.
Of the older versions, it is possible that the 1936 version is closest in spirit to the novel. It is quite relaxed in its treatment and here and there there is a glimmer of humour. Plus it is the cinematic template for the later versions. But if you have to see a Devdas, it is perhaps best to see the 1955 version for its formal beauty, its serious tone and adherence to the novel. Though the 2002 one will do just as well if you like your film served with Bhansali Bling.